Monday, November 30, 2015

A Light in the Darkness



“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” Isaiah 9:2

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the Light of the world.”” John 8: 12

On a recent education tour of the Holy Land, these verses of Scripture became very real to me. I was overwhelmed by the experience of being in Jesus’ homeland and listening to the tour guide relaying pivotal historical and biblical moments while pointing out the physical landmarks where it happened.

On our first full day of touring, we were taken to Mount Arbel. 
 The guide indicated a trail (Jesus Trail) meandering through the Valley of Doves that was the ancient passage to the seashore of Galilee. Then she said, “It’s very highly probable that it’s the same road Jesus walked as He began His ministry.” I stood in awe as goose bumps formed on my arms. To the un-informed, it was just another rugged path in the valley, but to me it signified the reality of where my feet had landed and the faith I have in the One whom came to heal the broken hearted, to free the captives, to make the lame to walk, and to cause the blind to see.

A light came on in the darkness of my mind! In that specific moment of time, for me, the historical Jesus and the biblical Jesus merged to become one. Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying: this does not mean that up to this point in my faith I believed the historical and biblical Jesus are two different individuals. However, in that specific instant there was an awakening within my inner being as a greater understanding of Jesus lit up within me. Here I stood, overlooking the very path where Jesus trod to being His ministry.

I’ve been a Salvation Army Officer for 28.5 years. The number of years of service does not mean that I know it all – lol! Actually, it’s just the opposite. I’m still learning about Jesus, the Light of the world. In moments when the darkness of responsibility attacks, or when the darkness of doubt about calling is mine, the prophet Isaiah speaks into my life. His words in chapter 9:2 remind me that I don’t have to walk in darkness because, by faith, I see and walk in the Light.

Not only during the Advent Season, but every day is a celebration of the coming of this great Light. It is my prayer that each of us will see and respond to Him as we contemplate how we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus so that we, too, are a light that dispels the darkness.

“You are the light of the world… Let your light shine.” Matthew 5: 14,16.



Patsy Rowe, Major 
Corps Officer 
Napanee/Tweed, 
Ontario Canada
 

Sussex Carol - Choir of New College Oxford



Sussex Carol - Choir of New College Oxford



Saturday, November 28, 2015

What is Advent? Advent 2015: Light of the World--An Introduction

Advent 2015:  Light of the World--An Introduction


Last year I shared an Advent series that stemmed from my experience that our community churches were not addressing this subject and what I believed to be the leading of the Holy Spirit to do so. This year I have been meditating and praying about Advent and whether or not I should do another series. The Holy Spirit has been prompting me; and so, after much consideration, I will be sharing weekly reflections, including suggested daily Scripture readings to enhance our focus during this holy season of Advent. The theme that has been impressed on my mind and in my spirit is “Light of the World.” I hope and pray that as we contemplate and celebrate this Christmas season together that we will find rich blessings in meaningfully centering our attention on the significance of Advent.

Because some of you may not have been with us last year (2014), I am including the explanation regarding the history and practice of Advent to help clarify the subject, as well as a description of the Advent wreath.  Having an understanding of Advent will facilitate our study and experience as we move forward to explore the 2015 theme, “Light of the World” and how that Light influences and directs our Christian walk. While Advent is celebrated for the four Sundays before Christmas, the Advent wreath actually includes 5 candles—one for each of the four Sundays, and a fifth one to be lit at a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service (i.e., “the Christ candle”). As I did last year, I will include some reflections and challenges for a New Year’s post, and will complete the series with a post on Epiphany (January 6th).


What is Advent?

The word Advent comes from the Latin word “adventus”, which means "coming". Advent refers to the coming of Christ, which includes a celebration of Jesus’ birth, His First Coming, and to His Second Coming, for which we still wait. It is unclear when the season of Advent was first celebrated. However, it seems that the practice of observing Advent began in the latter part of the 6th century into the beginning of the 7th century. These conclusions are based on the fact that Pope St. Gregory the Great's sermons included a homily (or sermon) for the second Sunday of Advent (his papacy was from 590-604), and that by the year 650 Spain was also celebrating the season of Advent. (1) Over the years, the focus evolved from one of penitence (similar to the season of Lent) and spiritual preparation to one of spiritual preparation and a celebration of joy. The season of Advent encompasses the four weeks before Christmas, during which time the focus is on preparing for the celebration of His birth and on spiritual renewal.

The Meaning of the Advent Wreath (Five candles)

During Advent one candle on the Advent wreath is lit each Sunday (in churches that celebrate Advent and in many private homes), with the final candle being lit on Christmas Day. Each of these candles symbolizes a characteristic of spiritual preparation for Christ’s birth:

1st Week of Advent: The Prophecy Candle or Candle of Hope (purple) is lit.

2nd Week of Advent: The Bethlehem Candle or The Candle of Preparation (purple) is lit.

3rd Week of Advent: The Shepherd Candle or The Candle of Joy (pink) is lit.

4th Week of Advent: The Angel Candle or The Candle of Love (purple) is lit.

Christmas Day: The Christ Candle (white) is lit.

I look forward to celebrating this season of Advent with my online family, again. Advent begins next Sunday, November 29th, 2015, and the 1st week of Advent reflections will be posted then. Your feedback, questions, suggestions, and so forth, are always appreciated. So do feel free to comment.  

Many blessings.

Elizabeth Hogan-Hayduk
Former Officer
Guardians of the Truth

Toronto, Canada

Friday, November 27, 2015

Christian Growth & Persecution In India


November 24, 2015  
By Tom Olago


The Salvation Army India
Crowd waiting for Christian worship service to begin -  SA church is in the background-

India is the Salvation Army's oldest Mission field having commenced in Bombay on September 19th, 1882.  


Today The Salvation Army has more than 1,000 churches, 110 schools and colleges, institutions and hospitals and a quater million members and supporters located throughout the country.


***
Paris may still be fresh in our minds, but not many may remember that seven years back, massive waves of attack on religious grounds took place in Orissa, India. The aftermath of the massacre of Indian Christians in 2008 was gruesome indeed – nearly 100 dead, 56,000 people homeless, 300 churches and 6,000 homes raided and looted. A number of Christian women, as well as nuns, were also raped in the attacks.

The Hindu mob had reportedly organized violence against Christians whom they accused of converting Indians to Christianity. The riots targeted Dalits, also known as the "Untouchables" in the lowest caste system, because many had made the decision to convert to Christianity.



A recent Christian Post account further revealed that an inquiry into that massacre has concluded its investigation and is set to publish its findings amid reports that Hindu extremism is rising again. It is expected that the details of the worst anti-Christian violence in India's history will be finally be published in December.



The speed of completing the process of investigation seems to have suffered from political or administrative interference. Judge A.S. Naidu, head of the Commission of Inquiry, explained that "because of the lack of cooperation of many stakeholders, including the government, it took almost seven years to finish the investigation."

Soon after the massacre, Human rights activist Jagadish G. Chandra also made comments that became self-fulfilling with regard to the speed of the investigative report’s finalization: "The celebration is an opportunity to reflect on the theme of growing intolerance orchestrated by Hindu extremist groups across the country, and how these ideas have infiltrated the government, police and courts, eroding the values of justice, equality, secularism and citizenship enshrined by the Constitution of India."



India is currently the second-most populous nation on earth, with over 1.2 billion residents and is expected to surpass that of China, currently the world’s most populous nation at 1.3 billion souls. 

Sadly, the specter of religious terrorism in India has been rearing its ugly head again, targeting religious minorities in the predominantly Hindu nation. Five churches in the Indian capital, New Delhi, have reported incidents of arson, vandalism and burglary. 



A recent Fides report on Wednesday noted that Hindu extremists are stirring up tensions again, with the "Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh" (RSS) group accusing religions minorities, like Christians and Muslims, of "infiltration in Indian territory", of "political conversion", and for threatening the "unity, integrity and identity of the country."



Official data from recent demographic statistics seem to be what stirred the hornet’s nest for the RSS group. The numbers show that those who identify with the Hindu religion have fallen from 88 percent to 83.8, while the Muslim and Christian populations have been rising. The extremists noted that in some states, like in Arunachal Pradesh, the Christian population increased by nearly 13 percent in a single decade, which they claimed is evidence of "targeted religious conversion."

And they are right in that vein.  A ChristianNews.net report in 2013 showed that Ministries in India were reporting significant growth in the Christian Church among middle and upper caste Indians and the younger Indian generations.

According to Operation World, 74% of India’s populace identified as Hindu, 14% described themselves as Muslim, and 6% were Christian – reportedly over 71 million adherents. 

However, with an annual growth rate of nearly 4%, Christianity is by far the fastest-growing of all major religions in India.


FROM THE RUPEBA SA BLOG: http://rupeba.se

Thursday, November 26, 2015

It's Thursday 26 Nov Number 53


NUMBER 53

Thursday 
26th November 2015


Thursday word from Genesis
'They told him(Jacob), “Joseph is alive! In fact, he is the ruler of all Egypt.” Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them,' Genesis 45:26. Had you been Jacob and believed your son to be dead for over 20 years, what would your response have been to the news the brothers brought back from Egypt?

Obviously Jacob was shocked at what he heard. It was unbelievable. It reminds us of the reaction of the disciples at the news, 'Jesus is alive,' that first Easter morning: how none of them would believe without evidence. Only as each disciple met with the risen Lord, did they believe.


Jacob, on seeing the evidence of the carts,(v 27), (and no doubt the 'best things of Egypt' v23, that Pharaoh sent), believed. We believe in heaven, not because of what others have told us or even what the bible says, (as true as that is). No! We believe because of the evidence, the taste of it that we have now, the presence of Jesus  within us made possible by the Holy Spirit. (1 John 5:9–12). The things that were sent from Egypt were convincing proof that what the brothers were saying was true. Our personal experience, here and now, of the presence of Jesus in our hearts is convincing evidence that what we have been told and what the bible says, is true. 


God bless you all.

Howard Webber, 
Bournemouth

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"Joyful, Joyful" - Samuel Ljungblahd (LIVE Royal Wedding of Prince Carl ...



Swedish gospel artist, Salvationist Samuel Ljungblahd, (grew up in and remains a member of a Salvation Army church in northern Sweden) performs "Joyful, Joyful" (together with gospel choir "By Grace") live at Royal Wedding of Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist 2015 in Stockholm, Sweden.Original video from SVT (Swedish state television)


If at the end of this clip your feet aren't dancing, call the medics Quick!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Booth and the Bolsheviks Part One of 5 0r 6

FOREWORD - INTRODUCTION

On 6th September 2002 The Salvation Army’s General-elect, Commissioner John Larsson, spoke of “the awesomeness of the responsibility to follow in a line of succession of such distinguished Generals”. Larsson follows too in the footsteps of very capable SA leaders also named Larsson; his parents Commissioners Sture och Flora Larsson and grandparents Karl and Anna Larsson. His forebears were officers with impressive credentials in steering Army affairs in many lands for more than six decades. His grandfather, Commissioner Karl Larsson, took as his motto, “Work, for the night is coming.” [1]

My book, Return to Russia with Flags Unfurled, is comprised of three distinct narratives: The first chronicles the Salvation Army's decade 1913-1923 in pioneering the work in Russia. Both parts one and two include personal insights acquired from my many of business visits to Russia, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Uzbekistan beginning in 1968 through 2007. I was also privileged to share with Kathie, my wife and pioneer-partner, as Salvation Army officers all of the challenges, frustrations, victories, pain, joy and heart-break God, the Holy Spirit, led us into while living in Russia and Ukraine 1989 -1994. And her input in the writing of this book is invaluable.

Part three is a supplement of articles and reports researched by my cousin Major Mikael Ljungholm, also a grandson of the Ljungholms who served in Petrograd and who pioneered the Army’s entry to Moscow. The articles are a unique treasure of SA history and serve as testimony to the integrity of Karl Larsson’s work ethic, his courage, intense tenacity and unwavering faith in God’s leading. Much of the material has never been translated from its original Swedish and will now be available to both English and Russian language audiences.

Commissioner Karl Larsson, is known primarily, in the broad annals of Salvation Army history, as the person who "opened fire" and planted the Army’s colours in the Empire’s soil officially the first time. (1914).[2]  Others  dispute both the year of the Army’s entry and the identity of the person credited with The SA’s historic achievement. Some question whether the Army was ever officially recognized or legally registered in Russia in accordance with the Army’s legal and well-defined regulations.

A look back at the extended history of the Salvation Army in Russia: 1889-1944[3]

The first expression of The Salvation Army’s work in Russia began in November 1889, within the Finland General-District of Czarist Russia. (administrative division of St Petersburg) The first corps was established in 1892 in Vyborg and a Vyborg Division was created in October 1905 and grew to include 13, four slum stations, and two homes to serve military personnel. However, the Salvation Army had no official or practical presence in Russia.

“George Scott Railton was drawn to William Booth’s Christian Mission in 1873 on the recommendation of his brother and by its militant evangelism. Railton became Booth’s right-hand man and was a prime contributor to the constitutive doctrinal statement of the Army and its earliest Orders and Regulations. Railton, the first person attaining to the rank of Commissioner was Booth’s foremost assistant. He championed an aggressive, unconventional mode of evangelism, the equality of women in ministry, and the sacramentalization of the whole of life.

In 1880 he was appointed by Booth to head a mission to the United States; subsequently he provided leadership in Germany and France. And from 1885 onward he traveled as Booth’s ‘vagabond’ ambassador, surveying new mission fields with what Bramwell Booth called the “restless, fearless, struggling spirit of advance.” [4]

Sven Ljungholm - Key note speaker and coordinator: First ever Russian social work conference hosted by The SA - Leningrad Russia 1990





Saturday, November 21, 2015

ISB Prelude on 'Lavenham'


The Salvation Army's  International Staff Band, London playing Geoffrey Nobes lovely arrangement of his tune Lavenham. The words were written by the Rev. Nick Fawcett.
I have meditated on the tune and words daily since Nov 13th, the day of the Paris terrorist's inhumane sacrilege of human life. I share them trusting you'll find them helpful to our troubling world circumstances.

Lord, there are times when I have to ask, "What?"
times when your love is not easy to spot.
What is life's purpose and what of me here?
Grant me some answers,
Lord, make your will clear.
Lord, there are times when I have to ask , "Why?"
times when catastrophe gives faith the lie.
Innocents suffer and evil holds sway,
grant me some answers,
Lord, teach me your way.
Lord, there are times when the questions run fast,
time when I fear that my faith may not last.
Help me, support me,
Lord , help me get through.
Lead me through darkness till light shines anew.

Sven Ljungholm
Cantonments
Penny Lane, Liverpool

Friday, November 20, 2015

SYRIAN CONFLICT FOR DUMMIES


They shall come from the east, they shall
come from the west,
And sit down in the Kingdom of God;
Out of great tribulation to triumph and
rest
They'll sit down in the Kingdom of God.

From every tribe and every race,
All men as brothers shall embrace;
They shall come from the east, 
they shall come from the west,
And sit down in the kingdom of God.

General John Gowans

***

As a result of the ongoing Syrian civil war, there are currently two governments claiming to be the de jure government of Syria, using different flags to represent the state. The incumbent government, led by Bashar al-Assad and the Ba'ath Party, is using the red-white-black United Arab Republic flag in use since 1980.









The Syrian Interim Government, led by the Syrian National Coalition – seeking to overthrow the Assad government – readopted the green-white-black Independence flag in 2012.







SYRIAN CONFLICT 101

President Assad (who is bad) is a nasty guy who got so nasty his people rebelled and the Rebels (who are good) started winning.

But then some of the rebels turned a bit nasty and are now called Islamic State (who are definitely bad) and some continued to support democracy (who are still good). 

So the Americans (who are good) started bombing Islamic State (who are bad) and giving arms to the Syrian Rebels (who are good) so they could fight Assad (who is still bad) which was good. 

By the way, there is a breakaway state in the north run by the Kurds who want to fight IS (which is a good thing) but the Turkish authorities think they are bad, so we have to say they are bad whilst secretly thinking they're good and giving them guns to fight IS (which is good) but that is another matter.

Getting back to Syria. President Putin (bad, as he invaded Crimea and the Ukraine and killed lots of folks including that nice Russian man in London with polonium) has decided to back Assad (who is still bad) by attacking IS (who are also bad) which is sort of a good thing?

But Putin (still bad) thinks the Syrian Rebels (who are good) are also bad, and so he bombs them too, much to the annoyance of the Americans (who are good) who are busy backing and arming the rebels (who are also good). 

Now Iran (who used to be bad, but now they have agreed not to build any nuclear weapons and bomb Israel are now good) are going to provide ground troops to support Assad (still bad) as are the Russians (bad) who now have ground troops and aircraft in Syria.

HANGING WITH US SO FAR?


So, a Coalition of Assad (still bad) Putin (extra bad) and the Iranians (good, but in a bad sort of way) are going to attack IS (who are bad) which is a good thing, but also the Syrian Rebels (who are good) which is bad. 

Now the British (obviously good, except Corbyn who is probably bad) and the Americans (also good) cannot attack Assad (still bad) for fear of upsetting Putin (bad) and Iran (good / bad) and now they have to accept that Assad might not be that bad after all compared to IS (who are super bad).

So Assad (bad) is now probably good, being better than IS (no real choice there) and since Putin and Iran are also fighting IS that may now make them good. America (still good) will find it hard to arm a group of rebels being attacked by the Russians for fear of upsetting Mr Putin (now good) and that mad ayatollah in Iran (also good) and so they may be forced to say that the Rebels are now bad, or at the very least abandon them to their fate. This will lead most of them to flee to Turkey and on to Europe or join IS (still the only constantly bad group).

To Sunni Muslims, an attack by Shia Muslims (Assad and Iran) backed by Russians will be seen as something of a Holy War, and the ranks of IS will now be seen by the Sunnis as the only Jihadis fighting in the Holy War and hence many Muslims will now see IS as good (doh!).

Sunni Muslims will also see the lack of action by Britain and America in support of their Sunni rebel brothers as something of a betrayal (might have a point) and hence we will be seen as bad.

So now we have America (now bad) and Britain (also bad) providing limited support to Sunni Rebels (bad) many of whom are looking to IS (good / bad) for support against Assad (now good) who, along with Iran (also good) and Putin (also, now, unbelievably, good ) are attempting to retake the country Assad used to run before all this started?


This should clear it all up for ONE and ALL!